Thursday, October 23, 2014

Ancient Wisdom Validated by Current Scientific Theory

One of the first subjects of Therapeutic Applications of Integral Yoga was a discussion of sulphorapane, which is a molecule that is present in cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, etc.).  Research is indicating that this molecule has anticancer properties.  So, eat your broccoli. 

First step might be as simple as being mindful of what we eat.

Entropy is a movement into disorder, disassembly.  Without intervention, all matter is moving toward entropy.  Negentropy is a movement into order.  Aging and sedentary lifestyles move the body into entropy, into disassembly.  Negentropy  can reverse entropy and maintain the body.  So, practice deliberate movement to intervene in this disassembly of the body, keeping the body assembled.

Second step might be as simple of being mindful of how we move.

Stress in entropic.  Managing stress is negentropic.
Relax, for Pete’s sake!

Third step might be as simple of being mindful of how to recognize the body’s signals that stress is moving beyond the tolerable stage, whether physical, mental, or emotional.

The second day of Therapeutic Applications of Integral Yoga began with a discussion on scientific reductionism.  While scientific reductionism is quite useful on many levels, it turns out that loading a reductionist experiment with more than three variables may prove to be too complex for consistent answers.  Dr. Panico gave a wonderful illustration about how moving into higher math grew more difficult as the variables in an equation increased.  In other words as the load increases, the journey becomes more difficult.

Which brought up the subject, allostatic load.  Allostatic load is like the variables in an equation: the more variables, the more wear and tear on the body.

Fourth step might be as simple of being mindful of when enough is enough. 

Tensegrity is an architectural term to explain the principle of how a geodesic dome can keep from collapsing.  Basically, each unit is part of a whole that maintains structure and unity without causing stress/damage to any other unit, often without coming into contact with other parts of the structure.  The same is true with the body.  Biotensegrity.  Each part of the body is affected by how other parts of the body move.  That’s why a massage/physical therapist can find something in the lower back that is torqueing the knee.  Why a present-day stress might trigger a painful childhood memory.

Fifth step might be as simple as being mindful that pain/discomfort might be related to something about which you are completely unaware.  Meditation might be an effective way to “zero-in” on the pain, paying attention.

How we eat
How we move
How we respond to stress
How to know when enough is enough
How to address inexplicable pain

This is a yogic lifestyle, living mindfully into each moment.

Many of you have asked what was the thing that stood out most in the workshop.  Two of the presenters were sitting on the stage, and as one started talking about the importance of exercise, the other presenter interrupted and said, “Yoga is not exercise.”  The first presenter responded, “Yes, it is.”  The second said, “No, yoga is mindful movement.” 
What I took away from that exchange is the profound difference between mindfulness movement (hatha yoga) and automatic pilot (exercise).

For more information about how yoga can heal the body, Dr. Dean Ornish has pioneered research in yoga therapy.  And fundamental to his work is his training in Integral Yoga®.  Dr. Ornish was doing yoga therapy before yoga therapy was cool.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Home Practice #1

Reclining:  Bring knees into chest (holding knees or backs of thighs) and rotate 8 times.  Rotate in opposite direction 8 times.  

Release left knee and extend left leg long on the floor.  Hug right knee into the chest with both hands.  Release right knee and relax knee out to the side, bottom of right foot coming somewhere to the inside of the left leg.  Arms overhead, elbows bending, one hand relaxing into the other. (Reclining Tree Pose) Take six deep breaths, relaxing more deeply with each exhale.

Bring right knee up and hold with left hand, then stretch knee towards the left. (Reclining Spinal Twist)  Take six deep breaths relaxing into twist more deeply with each exhale.
Release knee, bringing both knees into chest.  

Begin same sequence working with the left knee.

After sequence with left knee, relax in comfortable reclining position for 30 seconds to one minute. 

Home Practice #2

Standing in Mountain Pose in the center of a door opening, let the hands hold tightly 
on to the trim lining either side of the door at hip’s height or just above. 

Bring the hips forward, and move the lower spine into a mild cow pose, squeezing the shoulder blades together.  Keep the chin tucking toward the chest.  

Hold the stretch for a few seconds, and repeat if you enjoyed that.

Home Practice #3

Home Practice
Sun Salutation as Aerobic Practice

Mountain Pose. Bring the palms together in front of the chest.  Lift the palms upward. Feel the stretch through the sides of the body, feel the lift in the abdomen.  Breathe.  Open the arms a little beyond shoulder width apart and gently Arch Back, keeping the lower back completely stable, arms and ears staying aligned.  The arch is from just underneath the shoulder blades.

Bring the body back to centered.  Open the arms, hinge from the hips, lengthen through the spine, bend the knees, and move into Forward Fold.   Bring the palms to either sides of the feet.  Let the upper body relax over the lower body.  Breathe.

Step the left foot far back into Lunge, enough so the the right knee is behind the right ankle. 

Lower the left knee keeping the toes curled on the mat.  Lift the body upright, and use the upper body to sink through the hips to stretch the left thigh. Breathe. Bring the hands to the mat underneath the shoulders.  Step the right foot back to meet the left, and move into Down Dog, hips and hamstrings lifting upward, spine lengthening downward.

Bring the knees to the mat. Uncurl the toes to flatten the feet.  Flex the spine upward, tuck the hips forward, and bring the chin to the chest to move the body into Cat Pose. Bring the spine into a Cow Pose spine, extending the spine downward while lifting the hips, lifting the chin and chest.  Curl the toes, lift the hips, and return to Down Dog.

Step the left foot forward to come into Lunge.  Use the left hand to work that foot all the way up to the front of the mat.  Bring the right foot to meet the left foot into Forward Fold, knees bending.  Set feet up for Mountain Pose.

Lift the head, lengthen through the spine, bring the arms out to the side and begin to lift the body into Standing as the palms come together overhead.  Stretch the arms alongside the ears, lengthening through the spine, then bring the palms together in front of the chest.  Take a deep breath. 

Repeat stepping right foot back.

Continue sequence, moving more rapidly with each progression.

Home Practice #4

Hands & Knees (Table Pose): 
Cat (spinal flexion) and Cow (spinal extension) with breath.  Inhale to Cow and exhale to Cat for 8 deep full breaths.  Return to Table Pose with neutral spine.  

Walk hands to the left; keeping hips up bring right shoulder onto floor turning head to the left, relax for 4 deep breaths.  

Press into left hand and walk hands to the right.  Keeping hips lifted, bring left shoulder onto floor turning head to the right, and relax for 4 deep breaths.  

Press into right hand and walk hands to center for Table Pose.  

Shift weight to right knee and extend left leg back, lifting leg no further than parallel to the floor, toes pointing to the floor.  

Shift weight onto left hand and extend right arm along side the right ear.  

Stretch left heel and right hand in opposite directions.  Let abdominal muscles engage as much as comfortable, a natural physiological response to the stretch.  Take 6 deep breaths.  

Lower left leg and right hand back to Table Pose. 

Then repeat with right leg and left arm extending in opposite directions.  

From Table Pose, relax into the Child’s Pose you enjoy the most for 30 seconds to one minute.